501.BB Balkan/8–3148

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State1

Participants: The Greek Ambassador
The Secretary of State
Mr. Jernegan, GTI

The Ambassador called at his request. He said that his Government was very anxious to capitalize on the recent military successes won by the Greek Army over the guerrillas and in particular to find means of [Page 260] preventing the northern neighbors of Greece from assisting the guerrillas to reorganize and reinfiltrate into Greece. He pointed out that with winter coming the operations of the Greek forces would be curtailed and the guerrillas would have an opportunity to return to Greece in small groups and to bring in equipment for future use. The Greek Government had proposed certain recommendations to be made by the UN” Special Committee on the Balkans (UNSCOB) to the General Assembly, among them a recommendation that the Committee be authorized to call upon the Secretary-General of the UN for armed guards to protect its observer groups. It was felt that such guards would have a symbolic value in preventing the return of the guerrillas to Greece. It was understood that the Mexican representative on UNSCOB was prepared to present a proposal along this line but that the American representative was opposing such action and the Mexican considered that it would be useless for the Committee to adopt a recommendation of this kind if the United States were in the minority. The Greek Government was much disturbed by this attitude of the American representative. The Ambassador wished to urge that we reexamine this question.

I said that I had been informed of the purpose of the Ambassador’s call and had already given the matter some consideration. The Department had not yet made up its mind conclusively on the subject but at the present moment was inclined to feel that the gains from employing armed escorts would be relatively slight, while the difficulties and possible losses would be substantial. I then said that I wished to speak for the Ambassador’s information only and not for transmission to any other Government, not even his own. In matters such as this it had to be realized that the United States was in an especially difficult position because we were always the country which had to take whatever action was necessary and suffer whatever consequences there might be. It was comparatively easy for some governments, such as the Mexican, to propose various steps when it was not those governments but the United States which would have to carry them out. For example, Greece was not receiving aid from Mexico but from the United States. It was not Mexico which would in all probability provide the armed guards for the UNSCOB observers. Furthermore, in considering this question we had always to look at the whole world and determine what effect our action in Greece might have on activities being carried on in other countries. We now had over three hundred observers with the UN Commission in Palestine, and these men were scattered throughout the country. It would be a tremendous task to provide guards for all those observers, yet if the precedent were established in Greece we would undoubtedly be called upon to follow [Page 261] it in Palestine and possibly in other parts of the world where UN Commissions were operating.

I went on to say that probably any guards which could be provided would be in extremely small number, sufficient only to permit allocation of perhaps three men to each group of observers. These would certainly have nothing more than symbolic value. I did not know whether this would meet the Greek Government’s ideas or not. It should be kept in mind that no force of guards of a size within the bounds of possibility would be able to provide real protection against open attack. Furthermore, I understood that the greatest danger to the observers came from mines, and it would be practically impossible for a guard force to protect against that. However, I believed the Secretary General of the UN was going to propose the creation of a UN constabulary or gendarmerie, Perhaps if this force were created a portion of it could be allocated to Greece and this might meet the wishes of the Greek Government. I indicated that the United States looked with favor on the Secretary General’s idea.

Finally I emphasized that the Department had not reached a final decision and was awaiting a report from Mr. Drew, our representative on UNSCOB.2 Our judgment would be influenced by his report when it was received although we would not necessarily follow his recommendations since we had to take into consideration conditions in other parts of the world, as I had already pointed out. The Ambassador made no further remarks on this subject.

In the course of discussing the question of escorts for the observers, I took occasion to say I had been told that some of our people thought the Greek Government had interpreted our reluctance to adopt its suggestion on this matter as an indication that we were changing our general policy toward Greece. I said it would not be logical for the Greek Government to feel any such apprehensions. The United States was pouring altogether too much money into Greece and doing too many things in support of Greece for the Greek authorities to have any ground to fear the slightest change in the American attitude.

Our conversation then touched on Greece’s relations with its three northern neighbors and on the possible desire of the Greek Government to seek election to the Security Council. (The substance of our remarks on these two points is recorded separately.) At the conclusion of the interview, I said that I wished to emphasize what seemed to me to be the extreme importance of pursuing the military campaign [Page 262] against the guerrillas with the utmost vigor. I understood that the Greek forces were already being moved to northeastern Greece to clean up the guerrillas in that area and I was very pleased to hear this. Now that the Grammos victory had been won, I anticipated there would be a tendency on the part of the Greek Government or the Greek people to relax their military efforts. This almost always happened in a democracy after a military victory. It seemed to be a universal tendency of civilians to feel that they could return to normal as soon as the greatest single obstacle had been eliminated. Speaking as a military man, however, I was convinced of the absolute necessity for following through with undiminished vigor after a victory such as that won by the Greek Army in Grammos. Any relaxation would greatly diminish the results of that victory. I believed it would still be possible to carry on an active campaign during the months of September, October, and possibly part of November, and I thought the Greek Army should do everything in its power against the guerrillas during that period. Success in this would be the best way to impress the northern neighbors; in fact, it would answer the greater part of the problems which the Ambassador had presented to me. I repeated several times the extreme importance I attached to this and the necessity for avoiding any relaxation either by the Army itself or on the part of the central Government in its support of the Army.3

  1. Drafted by Mr. Jernegan; initialed by the Secretary.
  2. Mr. Drew, on September 4, reported that he had informed Greek officials of the serious practical difficulties in implementing the Greek proposal but that the United States might be willing to support the proposal should it find strong favor in UNSCOB. He noted also that the Committee appeared about evenly divided on the question but that all observers opposed the UN escort plan (telegram 1761 from Athens, identified also as Combal 250, 501.BB Balkan/9–448).
  3. The Assistant Chief of the Division of Greek, Turkish and Iranian Affairs, William O. Baxter, wrote in a memorandum of conversation of September 18: “The Greek Ambassador called today at my request to learn the views of the Department on the possibility, which he discussed with the Secretary about two weeks ago, that the Greek Government might consider the early invocation of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter as a means, he implied, of requesting armed assistance from other countries to prevent Greece’s northern neighbors continuing aid to the guerrillas. I told the Greek Ambassador that I had been authorized to inform him that in the Department’s view a Greek appeal for assistance under the admissive authority of Article 51 would not be warranted by present circumstances. Also, it would seem inadvisable for Greece to take such a step at a time when the whole problem is under active consideration by the General Assembly. The Department further believes that it is not feasible to formulate a United States position based on the hypothetical premise that the current military and diplomatic moves will fail to bring the guerrilla movement under control or that Greece’s northern neighbors may at some future date undertake larger scale or more overt action against Greece.” The Department, the same day, furnished the substance of this conversation to Athens in telegram 1346, which was repeated to London, Paris and Moscow (501.BB Balkan/9–1848).